The Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy

“Build it and they will come” is often attributed to the famous baseball film Field of Dreams, but it also fittingly describes the remarkable story of the Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy (DKICP) at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo.

In the movie, the main character set out to build a baseball field in an Iowa cornfield. For UH Hilo, its protagonist was the late U.S. senator from Hawai‘i and his dream to establish a pharmacy school in Hilo. 

“Building a high-quality college of pharmacy on Hawai‘i island was part of Senator Inouye’s vision to encourage better health care throughout the Pacific region and throughout the neighbor islands of Hawai‘i,” said Donald Straney, UH Hilo chancellor. “His vision was that each neighbor island would harbor a center of excellence, that every island should have its own specialty. The specialty for Hawai‘i island envisioned by Senator Inouye was our own college of pharmacy.”

Opening its doors to an initial cohort of 90 students in August 2007, DKICP’s humble beginnings were literally and figuratively true.  Spread across over five different locations, the administration was housed in a county building a few miles away that was built in 1920, research labs were located seven miles out of town in buildings constructed in the 1960s and temporary classrooms were located on the campus outskirts. 

DKICP East View
Rendering by WCIT Architecture of Honolulu

Despite these less than ideal arrangements, DKICP flourished to become one of the fastest growing programs in the UH System with enrollment reaching 360 students in its first five years of existence. In 2012, a year after graduating its inaugural class and in its first year of eligibility, the college was ranked as one of the top five new schools of pharmacy by U.S. News & World Report. Much of this success can be attributed to the leadership of Dr. John Pezzuto, founding dean of DKICP.

“Despite the many challenges and hurdles that Dean Pezzuto and his staff have had to overcome in establishing a college of pharmacy from the ground up, they have successfully met every benchmark set,” said Matthew Platz, vice chancellor for academic affairs at UH Hilo. “His knowledge, leadership and vision made it very possible for us to set our sights on becoming one of the top 25 pharmacy schools in the nation.”

DKICP North view building
Rendering by WCIT Architecture of Honolulu

DKICP has added to its doctor of pharmacy program with a bachelor of arts in pharmacy studies, a master of science in clinical psychopharmacology and a doctor of philosophy in pharmaceutical sciences. 

As the only college of pharmacy in the Pacific region accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education, DKICP is responsible for more than $50 million of economic activity per year in the state, according to an independent study by UH Hilo Economic Professor David Hammes. Also contributing to economic development is the work being done by faculty researchers to expand the state’s research capacity. UH Hilo’s researchers are working on drug development to fight malaria; ways to reverse the progression of cancerous tumors; understanding diseases of the central nervous system; the cellular process implicated in many diseases; disease tolerance in native Hawaiian bird populations; antitumor drug development; and drugs for use in tuberculosis and malaria. These projects, funded by the National Institutes of Health, allow UH Hilo to collaborate with UH Mānoa on biomedical research, strengthening research capacity not only for the DKICP but for the entire state.

DKICP is also working to save millions of dollars in Hawai‘i health care costs. One of its most successful programs is Pharm2Pharm, a pharmacist-care system established in 2012. The $14.3 million federally funded program is designed to reduce medication-related hospitalizations and emergency room visits by establishing teamwork between hospital and community pharmacists in rural counties of Hawai‘i Island, Maui and Kauaʻi. The program, developed by Professor Karen Pellegrin, founding director of the Center for Rural Health Sciences, is expected to save over $27 million across the state.

This past April, UH Hilo awarded a $31 million contract to proceed with the construction of a permanent building to house the Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy. The 45,000 square foot building is expected to be completed 20 months after construction begins. 

Build it and they will come.